FEEDBACK – The COSP with fresh eyes!

Posted by: on Jun 28, 2017 | No Comments

The annual Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the rights of People with Disabilities took place at the UN in New York last week (13-15 June), preceded by the CRPD Civil Society Forum (12 June). Article by Blandine Bouniol.

Freshly arrived in Handicap International and eager to learn about pretty much anything, I embraced the opportunity to join the HI delegation going to the COSP to the CRPD, which takes place every year in June, at the UN in New York.

COSP, what is that, you wonder?

COSP stands for the Conference of State Parties to the Convention on the rights of the Persons with disabilities. This is where delegations from all the States that ratified the Convention get together to take stock of progress, and exchange on good practices and challenges to overcome.

A good part of this exercise consists of self-congratulations and broad statements, as government delegates enounce, one country after the other, what good measures they’ve taken since the previous years, and how important it is to take into consideration people with disabilities, and that indeed they have rights. Pretty relevant as we’re sitting in the annual conference on the rights of persons with disabilities, isn’t it!

More interesting to me were the thematic discussions, and notably one focusing on the inclusion and full participation of persons with disabilities in humanitarian action. This is immediately connected to the ongoing HI advocacy to promote the Charter on the Inclusion of People with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action. And even more interesting are the many side-events organized by consortiums of organizations such as DPOs, NGOs, UN or government agencies, etc., in parallel to the official COSP plenary session.

Take-aways from the COSP

And so, no doubt, I learned so many things! Here are just a few of my take-aways that I’d like to share with you all:

    • I heard that the CRPD makes many people with disabilities feel “proud, empowered and responsible”, as expressed by the representative of the Mexican Disability Council. “Thanks to the CRPD, we’re no longer objects of rights, but subjects of rights”, said Risnawati Utami from Indonesia.
    • I realized the enormity of the lack of data and information that exists about people with disabilities: who they are, where they live – which exacerbates the feeling of invisibility. Without consistent, and coherent data collection, including in refugee camps and humanitarian action, how could we even start addressing the questions of the needs? As Shanta Rau Barriga from Human Rights Watch put it, “if you are not counted, you don’t count”. At the same time, I heard several governmental delegates (like the UK) and other participants explain how the Washington Group set of short of questions is a game changer, an easy tool that should be more widely used to improve the identification of persons with all kind of disabilities. Another process that brings hope is the disability marker being discussed with the OECD DAC, with the view to trace investments in projects relating to disability in development cooperation.
    • I heard that in spite of the 11 references to people with disabilities in the SDGs adopted 3 years ago, “there are still no concrete steps to monitor the advancement of the SDGs implementation for people with disabilities”, according to Catalina Devadas, Special rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities.
    • I heard many government delegates and UN agency representatives refer to the Charter on the Inclusion of people with disabilities in humanitarian action, and the government of Canada announced that it was endorsing the Charter! What a great timing to make this announcement! Well done Camille, Elena, Ricardo, and all other colleagues who relentlessly promote the Charter, and well done the team in HI Canada: champagne!
    • I learned that women and girls with disabilities continue to be the most vulnerable victims of abuse, violence and discrimination, having their rights to education, employment, healthcare, sexual and reproductive rights being denied. Remarkably, Sweden and New Zealand are pushing for a resolution on this. Yet, the CRPD committee has only one woman left on board… and I heard many people angry about that!
    • I learned that forced institutionalization and forced treatment remain a standard violation of human rights in many countries. Even within the disability rights movement, people with mental and psycho-social disabilities have a hard time to claim their space. However, the colorful leader of the World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry, Jolijn Santegoeds said that “With the CRPD, I felt for the first time recognized. We don’t need to beg for rights any longer, we can claim our rights”.
    • I observed a little battle between people pushing for strengthening legal frameworks and legislation, and others arguing that laws alone can’t change much, and more should be done to dismantle structural and systemic discrimination.
    • I learned that in many complicated situations, alternative solutions can be found if we “move the focus away from the impairment to the environment”.

Blandine is the Deputy Director for Advocacy in Handicap International Federation Advocacy and Institutional Relations Team, since March 2017. Blandine is specialized in global development policy, as she carried out advocacy work for CONCORD, the European Confederation of Development NGOs, and in the Caritas network. She also worked for the UNDP in Syria, and the French Embassy in Cambodia, mainly on governance-related programmes.

Today in Handicap International, based in Brussels, Blandine supervises the production of evidence for advocacy, internal communication and fundraising strategies. She also coordinates HI federal advocacy for inclusive development, and HI advocacy towards the European Union.

Blandine holds a Master degree in European studies from Sussex University in the UK and a Master degree in public law from Vaucluse university in France.


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